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And He Himself gave some to be....evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ...
- Ephesians 4:11-12

THIS BLOG HAS MOVED TO www.timeintheword.org

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Location: The Hill Country of Texas

Pastor - Providence Reformed Baptist Church
Director - TIME in the Word Ministries

Monday, October 17, 2005

pastorway and the Puritan Board

Presented in Five Acts

ACT I - My Exit as an Administrator
2 Timothy 2:14-19

October 17, 2005

Dear Readers,

I do not want to sideline the important work of the daily devotionals here on my blog, but I do want to use this space and this opportunity to share some things with you about my relationship with the Puritan Board. Some of you don't even know what the Puritan Board is! That is quite okay. It is a Reformed Discussion Forum that was started in 2001. I joined within the first few weeks of its creation when I found it online doing research on the Puritans. I was intrigued. I had never participated with an online internet forum before. I joined and within a short time was actually asked to serve as a moderator of discussions on the board. I was glad to help, met many new friends, grew in my understanding of the Word of God and in my convictions regarding topics of disagreement within the Reformed community. It was not long before my friendship with the owners of the board and my participation there led to my being asked to serve as a site administrator. I agreed, and enjoyed serving the body of Christ in this position on the internet.

However, yesterday, I resigned that position and have stepped aside as an admin and a moderator on the Puritan Board. Why? What happened? What changed? Here is what I wrote when I stepped down. After you read through this I will make a few closing comments. If you have any questions about what I have done or why I have done it, as always anyone is free to email me or post here on my blog.

Exit stage right, or was that left

To the members, moderators, and admins of the Puritan Board:

Having joined the Puritan Board within its first few weeks of existence I have been a part of this online community long enough to see us go through many changes. Changes in theology are usually obvious on these pages. Some people change. Some do not. Some should. Some change and change back. Some should just stop trying!

As a member and later as a moderator and then as administrator I have seen great battles of the faith fought here. In the early years it often happened that a heretic or lunatic stepped into our world and those of the "Reformed Faith" stood lock step in defending the truth of the Word of God in repelling the barbarian invaders.

At times the battles were fought with those who appeared to be among us and of us but proved that they were not. At other times, sadly, those battles have been between true believers and have included personal attacks and hurtful statements that have left people wounded and even bitter. Simply put, Christians need to learn how to debate in a way that glorifies God or they need to shut up. It does more harm than good to argue for the truth when we conduct ourselves like heathens in the process.

I could take the time to focus on the good and bad, but those of you who have been here for any length of time could produce the same list I am sure. We have a few members who are truly pastors to the church of God. Others who are keyboard and internet theologians who should be locked in a sound proof room without internet access for all the damage they try to do to the truth of the Word of God and to His people. So many want to be teachers and so many will pay a high price because of the high standard God sets for those who handle His Word.

Most members though fall in the middle of these extremes. Just honest and faithful disciples of Jesus Christ trying to understand and apply the Word, desiring to be hearers and doers. This is to be commended.

But my real concern, and the reason I have taken the time to write all this out, is that we have allowed the internet to begin to replace the church. Maybe not fully or completely, but while we work at the task of making disciples we have missed one crucial point. There is no such thing as a virtual disciple or a virtual Christian.

The friendships from this board that mean the most are those on the board whom we have met face to face. This is not always the case, as I have many dear friends that I have not seen on this earth yet. But true disciple making, true growth in grace, involves personal contact meeting the needs of others where they are. Being a follower of Jesus Christ and caring for the least of these is a hands on mission!

But in our virtual world of discipleship here, since membership in the board has been refined and narrowed we have seen a limit on topics of discussion. Indeed, while there is so much we agree upon, the areas of focus tend to be areas of small secondary matters that divide denominations and even groups within denominations of reformed churches. That meant more need for referees and moderation. And while we have never banned that many people (around 30 out of hundreds of members) it is a tough job to moderate this board! We have had several periods of great upheavel, great battles, hot debate, and other times of quiet and even times where not much was said for days at a time.

But the truth that we need such oversight and moderation is really sad to me. We are suppossed to be believers, fellow Christians, members of the Body of Christ. And yet too often of late we see a great divide where hands are spurning the feet even as members of the same body.

Some of it is young zeal with little knowledge. Many think that a few months study does a theologian make. The ability to articulate an argument does not mean that we have actually lived the truth contained therein. Some of it is just plain grumpy behavior that really has no place in Christian conversation. At any rate, after a recent hot spot, where several people did leave the board, it was decided that we needed more consistent moderation. But I do not think that cures what ailes us.

The tone of the overall discussion of this board has narrowed and gotten quite shrill over the last year or so. We have seen heated debates about things that are of little consequence to eternity. Of course, those in the debates would claim otherwise. But the truth is that we have even begun to try to put forth a twisted view of Christian liberty that is based more on pride than the Word of God and work of Christ.

A few articles were written as a result. One that I wrote that garnered some attention (and will be leading shortly to future works by both myself and Fred Greco) focused on the difference between discipleship and debate and some of the dangers inherent within internet Christinity.

While we may grow some through debate, the primary means of growing in grace is discipleship. And we see over and over again that virtual discipleship is not a replacement for hands on face to face ministry within a local body and a community.

I am deeply concerned with the narrowness of the drift in the discussions of late. I am concerned about the attitudes displayed in some of our recent discussions. And I am concerned about the direction this board is taking. As it is, some of the major doctrines upheld on this board include many that are far from what the reformed community sees from the Word of God. I am contacted regularly by Baptists and Presbtyerians alike that think some of the focus of the board of late is absurd. A slap at orthodoxy itself!

In fact, here on the forum I responded to a poll not too long ago about whether the board was edifying by answering, "No." The cry that went up for those who did vote no (however anonymously) was that if the board was not edifying then "Why do you stay? Why don't you leave?"

You see, we have become so arrogant and so sure of ourselves that if one sees the board as unedifying then they are not asked, "What is not edifying? What can we do to make it edifying?" No. The response is, "Well, it is edifying to ME, so if it is no longer edifying to you then perhaps you would be better off to leave."

What selfishness. How short-sighted. This is not the spirit of discipleship. It is not even the spirit of debate. It is the spirit of self righteousness that will destroy true ministry and ruin the faith of weaker brothers and sisters.

There is such potential here for good, and such for evil! The word evil at its root means "to harm." And the Puritan Board, with all the good that is here, is quickly falling into an arena where those who participate here lurking and reading and learning are more likely to be harmed than helped in their Christian walk. We cannot risk being called to account for the offending of "little ones."

I have debated for several months what I needed to do as a result. I have prayed and sought counsel. I have spent time in the Word. I have branched out into new areas of ministry, areas that are fruitful and active. I have been challenged by studying and preaching on "fellowship" the last few months. And I have concluded that I must obey Ephesians 5:15-16. I must redeem the time. And bluntly put, moderating the Puritan Board is no longer a wise use of my time. In fact, lately it has detracted from other ministry endeavors, and that cannot be allowed.

The point has been forcefully driven home and it has become clear to me that I cannot remain as an administrator on the Purtian Board. And while I had prepared to make this statement tomorrow (not to distract from the Lord's Day) by voluntarily stepping aside from this position, that opportunity was taken out of my hands as my administrative privileges were revoked by the board ownership earlier this afternoon.

I will maintain my membership at their discretion and will lurk and pop by from time to time, but my days as an administrator within this fellowship have come to an end.

To be totally and painfully honest, part of what motivated me to come to this conclusion this last week is the fact that I am too far out of step with the theological paradigm of the ownership of this board. Don't misunderstand me. I love Matt and Scott. They have sharpened me just as many of you here have. I thank God for bringing me to the Puritan Board. But I cannot endorse the theology or attitudes that have become the focal point of much of the debate on this forum as a result of the shifts in theology across the board and among the owners.

I am not breaking fellowship. I am not leaving hurt, wounded, or hateful. I seek no vengeance or retribution. I am not stepping down because Baptists are in the minority or because many Presbyterians are misrepresented! I am stepping aside because to stay in this position is to endorse the direction and theological emphasis of the board and I cannot make that stand.

For those of you who have come to mean so much to me as friends and especially those who are fellow ministers, you know where to find me! If anyone from the Puritan Board needs anything from me at all I am available to do whatever I am able - just call or email. I am saddened in that I have had to make this choice and in the events that have unfolded today, but am certain at the same time that this is the right thing to do for all concerned.

Humbly and only for the glory of Christ,
Phillip Way

So why did I have to announce in a public forum that I was no longer an administrator? Why did I do it this way at this time? Are they any other reasons I am stepping down from this position?

I was planning to send this announcement to the admins of the board in a private message on Monday. However, due to circumstances beyond my control, my hand was forced. During the course of a discussion about a questionable thread with one of the owners on Sunday, I removed a thread from public view for review by the rest of the admins. In removing the thread from view I had moderated the comments of another administrator. The result was that he revoked my admin status. Because the normal protocols set in place by the top 4 admins for dealing with the revoking of a member's privileges were not followed when my own privileges were removed, I had to act immediately to declare my intentions of stepping aside, hoping to prevent any further confrontation about the matter.

This was not new, just forced by the circumstance. I and others (moderators and members of the PB) had been discussing privately the thought of stepping down due to the unfruitful nature of discussions and debates the last year. We did not want to cause division or make a scene so were preparing to act quietly and privately. Our concern was caused by some major theological shifts on the board over the last few years. The focus theologically has become so narrow that the overall atmosphere of the discussion board had become, in our estimation, a dangerous place to be! This is especially true since many who find the Puritan Board online are new to reformed theology and are looking for help to answer questions. The answers that were being put forth and the topics that are pet doctrines espoused by some of the loudest voices on the forum (mostly young internet theologians) were no longer just questionable, but they were seriously flawed and could easily lead to the offending of immature believers (see Mark 9:42).

So what is an internet theologian or a keyboard theologian? That is a term I use to describe people who are fairly new to reformed theology or who have just made a major change in their theology and think that they are experts on the topics of discussion. They have a definite opinion about everything but have no experience at all in the real work of ministry. They are the fastest cut-and-pasters on the internet. They can deluge you with tomes from their favorite authors/theologians within seconds of your expression of doubt about their pet doctrines. This does not refer to education or intellect. It refers to novices who have neither the temperment nor the character to be teaching the Word of God to others - though that does not stop them from trying.

"But what about the narrowness? What narrowness?", you might ask. Let me demonstrate. Gleaning information from several recent articles posted on A Puritan's Mind led me to ask a series of questions to the board owners regarding their views on the church, ordination, worship, and fellowship. The debates on these topics have been hot and heavy lately as the focus on the board has narrowed in scope and I had hoped to clarify a position of unity on the board even if we disagreed about non-essential things. But what I found showed that the board was moving forward to union, but not unity! What is the difference?

Union means we are all the same. Unity means we are different but working together to reach a common goal. Some believe that Baptists and Presbyterians can work in unity to accomplish mutual goals for expanding the reach of the gospel and in obeying the command to make disciples. Others, in a few micro-denominations (denominations that are very small because they require 100% agreement from their members) want union, not unity! They want everyone to embrace their views on everything and to refuse to agree with them makes you an enemy or worse.

And here is what led me to these conclusions. I asked the owners of the Puritan Board to confirm or deny a list of statements that I made about myself based on their writing and postings. The conclusion was that their theological paradigm leads them to believe that I, as a Baptist minister in an independent Reformed Baptist church, am "not really reformed, a dispensationalist, one whose worship is an affront to God, an independent schismatic who is not lawfully ordained and therefore has no right to serve the church as an elder, preach the Word of God, or administer the ordinances of the Lord's Supper or Baptism, a dissenter from the true church of Christ, a rebel who refuses to submit to the rule of Christ and therefore, in the words of the authors of the Westminster Confession of Faith, 'one not to be tolerated'." I asked one of the owners point blank if this was an accurate statement of his views about me. He replied, "If my biblical exegesis is right (and historical theology is right), then yes, I would have to agree that you are those things. I am simply parroting what the reformers and divines said as well."

While believers may disagree with one another, this is beyond disagreement. This hinders fellowship. This prevents unity. This hurts the Body of Christ. This is divisive. This kind of thinking violates every principle of fellowship given to us in the Scriptures. And since this is the view of the ownership of the Puritan Board toward any who disagree with them on these issues, then I must as graciously as possible step aside. I cannot endorse these views, attitudes, or the thinking behind them.

The result is that I have left a position which I held for years. A position that allowed me to meet many great friends and fellow ministers. A position that gave me an opportunity to help answer questions and encourage a study of the Scriptures for what God has to say to us through His Word. I am sad to step down, but I have no choice.

I did fire a warning shot last month by the way. Many of you read it here: The Difference Between Discipleship and Debate. But now, what is done is done. It has been coming for a while. I doubt it will help change the course of the Puritan Board. I hope I am wrong, but I have been working to help keep it headed the right direction for years and it seems to be mostly to no avail at this point.

I need to be clear that while I no longer endorse the Puritan Board or regard it as safe, there are many good and solid people involved there. As I stated earlier, I am too far out of step with the theological paradigm of the ownership of this board. I am stepping aside because to stay in this position is to endorse the direction and theological emphasis of the board and I cannot make that stand.

~Pastor Phillip M. Way

Other related news:
Pastor Lawrence Underwood Steps Down as a Moderator on the Puritan Board.

ACT II - A Public Rebuke for Narrowing the Gospel
1 Timothy 5:19-20

February 10, 2006

A heated debate over a recent article published on A Puritan's Mind has made it clear that it is time for me to leave the Puritan Board altogether. In this article it is stated that holding to any part of a doctrine that denied calvinism was the same thing as denying the gospel and worshipping a false god. Further, the owner of the board has stated in numerous written articles that for a person to be saved they must understand and embrace all Five Points of Calvinism.

While Calvinism is important, and while the Doctrines of Grace are sound doctrine, they are not to be confused with the gospel, as if one must believe those Five Points or be lost forever. This adds to the gospel of Jesus Christ. And it is a plank in the platform of Hyper-Calvinism - a dangerous doctrinal system that opposes the gospel of free grace presented in the Scriptures.

I cannot be associated with such a narrow view of the gospel of Jesus Christ or His church. I cannot endorse those who would state such things about who is and is not saved, as if deep theological understanding is more important than the faith of a child!

I have asked those involved to recant this error of confusing the content of the gospel message. You can read my critique on the Puritan Board or in my blog, titled A Critique of Statements Published. Pray that God grants repentance where it is needed.

ACT III - A Response that Misses the Point
1 Timothy 6:3-5
April 14, 2006

I asked for a clarification about the content of the gospel in relationship to the Doctrines of Grace and here is the response: Coming to Faith: Examining Theological Paradigms Pertaining to Neophytes and Heretics in the Essentials of Christianity by C. Matthew McMahon.

Having read this work through several times now (yes, I did indeed read it all the way through, 41,517 words contained in 45 pages of text and 10 pages of footnotes), I think I can say with assurance that sometimes we forget just how simple the gospel message really is. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved."

ACT IV - What Do These Words Mean?
Matthew 5:37

April 17, 2006

My final response in the matter has been added as an amendment to the original critique, posted on the Puritan Board, titled What Do These Words Mean?.

ACT V - Shaking the Dust Off
Matthew 10:14

April 18, 2006

Even though I had voluntarily stopped participating on the Puritan Board months ago, I have now been officially and completely banned from the Board by its owner.

I have no choice now but to shake the dust off my feet (Luke 9:5).

The Curtain Call

September 2, 2006

I wrote previously about the theological views of the owners of the Puritan Board:

I cannot be associated with such a narrow view of the gospel of Jesus Christ or His church. I cannot endorse those who would state such things about who is and is not saved.

At the time, I knew that they were narrowing the gospel, but I really did not know how narrow they would make it. The latest development and controversy has been that one of the owners has posted in a lenghtly thread the following quotes:

"Parents whom would reject placing the sign upon their child are in fact showing to be apostates."

"Justification is by faith alone; The justified will place the sign upon their chidren (sic)."

"A man who refuses to place the sign upon his child as God commands is cut off; he is excommunicated. As per the WCF, 'demerited'. If he remains in the excommunicated status, one has to believe that that person is either apostate or reprobate. Where else is there to go?"

"If an Arminian dies in his Arminianism, was he elect?"

So there you have it. The hyper-covenantal theology that undergirds the Puritan Board is not Puritan at all! It is a theology that teaches that anyone who rejects the doctrines of grace or the doctrine of infant baptism is an apostate, not justified, reprobate, and hence, going to hell!

This false doctrine has many names and has been a part of the teachings known as Campbellism, or Landmarkism. Most recently it is at the heart of the teachings of those who uphold "Federal Vision" theology. It denies the gospel of grace by requiring covenant keeping in order for God to justify us. It is teaching justification by works and that is heresy.

I think it is past time that those participating on that board listened to Titus 3:9-10:

But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless. Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition...


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